Unknown foe awaits Cassville

Wednesday, September 14, 2016
Cassville's River Phelps follows a block on a run during the Wildcats' win over McDonald County Friday. Kyle Troutman/editor@cassville-democrat.com

Wildcats, Tigers to meet on the field for the 1st time

For the first time in school history, Cassville and St. James will meet on the football field on Friday.

For the Wildcats, the game will serve as Homecoming. The obvious goal is for Cassville (3-1, 2-1) to pick up its fourth consecutive victory of the season and send the natives home happy.

For the most part, the doubt that shrouded the team after a Week 1 loss to Lamar has all faded. The offense is clicking with a balanced approach to keep teams honest.

"I feel like our offensive line play has improved greatly since the Lamar game," said Lance Parnell, Cassville coach. "We are playing with a tremendous amount of confidence on that side of the ball."

Defensively, Parnell said the defensive pursuit has improved, along with the Wildcats tackling.

"We definitely improved," Parnell said. "We are showing signs of being the unit that the coaches feel like they can be."

The goal now for Cassville -- consistency.

Against McDonald County, the Wildcats owned the first and third quarters, but sputtered in the other two.

"We are still looking to put that full game together," Parnell said. "I like how we started each half, but I thought we relaxed a bit and let McDonald County make some runs."

The Mustangs threw the ball 53 times on Friday, which is a bit more than what Cassville expects this week, but it serves as a good tune-up for the Tigers.

"St. James is a bit more balanced on film than McDonald County," Parnell said. "They have a good quarterback and tailback as well as a couple of receivers that have good hands."

The Tigers opened the season with a 34-12 win over Cuba and a 42-0 shutout of Houston, but have dropped back-to-back games to Hermann, 38-21, and Owensville, 41-0.

According to Three Rivers Publishing, the Tigers return just five starters from last season's 2-8 squad.

St. James is led by Head Coach Greg Harlan's son, Ryan Harlan, at quarterback. Dawson Lynch is the top rusher returning from last season, and he will split carries with Gunnar Seams.

Seams and Lynch have each had 100-yard rushing games this season and have combined to score five touchdowns.

Harlan thrown for two scores and rushed for a third.

Keys for Cassville

* Block out distractions

The Wildcats cannot afford to get caught up in the pageantry of Homecoming. Their job is on the field. The dates will still be waiting for them after they shower and clean up at the game's conclusion.

* Four quarters

Cassville cannot afford to have any lulls in the game. With this being the final non-conference contest, the games only get tougher from here.

* Pressure without blitzing

This is a game where the Wildcats' front four can make a statement. With a spread offense, Harlan will not hold the ball for long in the pocket. It is imperative that Cassville apply pressure without blitzing.

* Smash mouth style

The Big 8 Conference has developed a reputation around the state as a hard hitting, smash mouth offensive group. The Wildcats have a golden opportunity to display this style on Friday and thrill all of Wildcat Nation.

Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.

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